31 December 2006

The War against Christmas

This fellow had a great way to combine wargaming, Christmas, and yummy food. Gingerbread men fight the battle at the North Pole and all casualties are eaten!

This is a photo of "The Army of the East are the Three Wise Men from eastern lands, come to put a stop to the overly drawn-out celebrations."

30 December 2006

Wargaming and life

Today Eric and I played a Lord of the Rings wargame. I quickly realised that he had set the game up a little one sided. He had six heroes worth around 600 points and I had around 480 points worth of weak goblins and orcs and a few trolls. As you may be able to tell from the photo, there were a selection of tins and ice-cream containers joined by thin bridges. My forces were set up on each of the highpoints and the plan was for Eric to plough through my forces like a knife through butter.
I had other plans. I retreated when it was hopeless and moved up the other forces and generally caused so much havoc that he was forced to change his plans.
Only one wounded hero ended up escaping the demise of his companions.
Anyway, the point of this tale isn't just how the tables were turned, but more how the wargame we played can be a useful lesson.
At no point was any plan a sure fire winner. Each action could be thwarted by a series of good or bad dice rolls, so the aim is to increase the odds in your favour and have plenty of back up plans depending on circumstances. At some points I had good dice rolls, at others Eric rolled much better. The difference was I kept changing things so the odds at each encounter were more in my favour than Eric's.
"In life, Eric," I said, "nothing is a sure bet. You have to accept changed circumstances and plans not coming to fruition as the normal state of being. If something actually goes according to plan be grateful. Just make sure that you have options when your circumstances change. This may involve some savings, backing up your data, or even just an extra pair of underpants in your bag."
Eric nodded and added, "and be grateful for the good dice rolls."

29 December 2006

Structured Classical Unschooling

As part of our year end reflections, and in response to questions about our homeschooling style, we have finally worked out what method of homeschooling we use.
Structured, Classical, Literature based unschooling.
As you can gather that is quite a mix of styles which on the surface appear to contradict. However long time readers of Bruggie tales could probably have worked this out. We don't strictly adhere to any of these individual TYPES of homeschooling, but instead select the parts that suit our family and each child's proclivities. Naturally we always wonder whether the children are learning or doing "enough". Having experienced Ariel's activities in the workplace over the last few months it looks as if we are on the right track.
For structure we use a planner which divides up books and tasks over the 30 to 40 week school year.
We primarily focus on Maths and English Literature and reading skills as a framework and fold in the rest using a combination of books and experiences for History, Social Studies, Geography, Science and so on.
We also have regular Maths Quizzes to keep the children's mental maths skills active.
We deliberately immerse the children and ourselves in our culture and history through literature, especially audio books.
Embracing and infusing all this, in daily life and all subjects, is the faith and God's interaction with us all.
Update: This must be a year end tradition. Last year we reflected on Why We Homeschool.
If you are interested in all our homeschooling posts, just click the label bit at the end of this post.

All together, push!

Sometimes it pays to keep quiet about great budget savings. A very short time after posting about Budgetting, we all hopped into our van to go to Mass. It didn't start. The battery seemed to work but the starter motor just whirred unhappily.
OK. No Mass today. Everyone out.
Lana's Dad had a good look and worked out that the battery was really "stuffed". So we toddled off to town (45 minutes away) and obtained a new battery.
The van still didn't start. This was more serious. We called a number of mobile mechanics but the ones that covered our area were all on holidays this week.
So we called the place we get our van serviced and they were open. We just had to get the van there and that meant giving it a push start.
Dad's little car was able to get the van up the slight slope and out of our driveway, and then Lana, her Mum and I gave the van a push start and Dad timed the ignition and the van started!
A trip back to town, and we left the van at the service place with news it would cost about $1,500 ($1,125 USD) and
probably be ready Tuesday.
This afternoon we had the call they received the starter motor today, the van was fixed and it would ONLY be $1,295 ($970).
So by year's end, my six monthly figures ended about on target after all.
Did you note the fog in the photo? This is high Summer, and whereas last year New Year's day was over 40C (104F) this year it looks to be around 20C (68F) and with much loved rain.

28 December 2006

A very short Carnival of Children's Comedy

This week's Carnival of Kid's Comedy is very short. It only has one entry. Our post about Clare's future plans.

Cool. A special Bruggie Tales Carnival!

27 December 2006

Budgetting - the easy way

As most of you know I have been an accountant since I first started work as a trainee accountant back in 1982. In that time I have learnt the hard way about finance and debt and assisted many businesses and families with their accounting and financial situations. I am a big fan of simple methods of tracking income and especially expenses and have developed on my Dad's basic methods.
I have been recording our financial position for some time and wanted to share what we do. We use Quickbooks as I need to invoice clients. For most personal use, such as when I was in the US, I just used Quicken. ALL our expenses, whether cash, cheque (check) or credit card are recorded in the system.
I don't go in too much depth but it is really important to measure what you spend. You can't cut costs or change spending patterns if you do not know what they are. Also, tracking all expenses means I now what is due on any credit cards before the statement arrives. Online banking is a marvellous measuring tool.
I stick to two broad categories of Discretionary and Regular, then subdivide into the actual expenses. This helps me to determine where I can quickly cut back if I have a change in circumstances.
Regular and consistent costs which I can't avoid or stop easily
- Supermarket
- Motor Vehicle (split into Fuel, Tolls, Registration/insurance/services/other)
- Mortgage Interest/Rent
- House expenses (split into electricity, gas, repairs, heating, etc)
- Telephone (split into each number)
- Medical

Costs which can be stopped instantly and/or cheaper options put in place
- Takeaway/Restaurants
- Clothing (Opportunity Shops/Thrift stores//Hand-me-downs are the option)
- Entertainment (split into DVD/Videos, Cinema, other)
- Education (as we homeschool we can reduce this if needed)
- Lana Craft (Quilting, Cross stitch, etc)
- Other crafts
- Software

The last six months for us is pretty indicative as it has been a steady time and all the transition costs are over. In total we spent $22,000 AUD ($16,500 USD) for everything. That's not bad for a family of 8 people.
Why so low?
Primarily we mostly eat at home, clothes are not bought from the fanciest places, food is purchased in bulk or on special, and we have few additional outside activities. And we have no debt now the mortgage is gone. (The photo is from one of our trips to the market.)
If needed these expenses could be cut by one third pretty quickly.
Remember - the first step to changing anything is finding out where you are.

Ariel's Christmas Present

It is getting harder to work out a good present for Ariel. Books would only last a day or two and now she can afford her own, and Lego isn't really her thing. So we decided on something unique.
In her parcel were three dress and skirt patterns. Lana, Ariel, Lana's Mum and our neighbour will go on a trip to the city where there are lots of fabric stores and go shopping for some material then they will get together and make some skirts and dresses.
Here is Ariel modelling the new top she received from my Mum.

25 December 2006

Mmmmm Cheesecake

Today's special Christmas delights included Pavlova and individual strawberry cheesecakes. With ice-cream and cream of course. The Pavlova recipe is posted previously and here is the cheesecake recipe.
240 - 250gm(1 cup/8 oz) Chocolate flavoured biscuits (like Golliwog/Scallywag biscuits in Australia, or chocolate flavoured Tiny Teddies or Teddy Grahams)
125gm (4 oz) melted butter

Mix the melted butter and crushed biscuits/cookies and press into the tray or pan. The base can be either a Lamington tray (9" x 13") or individual muffin pans. This made 28 individual cheesecakes.

Main Part
750gm (240 oz) Cream Cheese (3 packs)
1 cup sugar
600ml (2.5 US cups) cream (thickened or heavy whipping)
3 tablespoons gelatine
1.5 cups mashed fruit (strawberries, mangoes, whatever)

Beat the cream, sugar and cream cheese together.
Dissolve gelatine in half cup hot water and add to cream cheese.
Fold in mashed fruit.
Let it set in the fridge. It sets fairly firm and can be sliced easily. For fullest flavour serve at room temperature.

We obtained this recipe from a friend who made Mango cheesecake for a restaurant. In the photo, we are showing the individual cheesecakes decorated with a dollop of cream and sliced strawberry. Rose is just making sure all is going according to plan.

Merry Christmas 2006

There is a bonus to Midnight Mass. The children sleep in. At least a little longer.
This is the Tradition at the Bruggie house on Christmas Morning.
The children get up in a certain order. First one awakes and looks into the loungeroom and examines the treasures under the tree. He then sneaks back into his room and patiently waits about three seconds before waking up the next sibling who does the same. In a relatively short time they are all awake, staring at the sifted presents, wondering what to do until Mum and Dad awake.
The first child then comes into our room and whispers (because you always whisper when the other person is on the phone or asleep) and asks if we are awake. "Not yet, " we reply and they exit the room, tagging the next child to enter a long time - about 30 seconds - later.
Eventually we are all awake and one child is designated to go get Lana's parents who join us.
Once we are all gathered around the tree, eating the compulsory Christmas chocolate or two, Ariel and Eric - being the eldest - are in charge of distributing presents. The trick here is to ensure that no more than two presents are distributed at any one time so all can appreciate the gifts the others have received.
It is fun watching the children as they receive gifts they hadn't considered. Clare's eyes went really wide when she opened up the tea set Lana's parents had given the two girls and Rose had a huge grin when she received a baby doll just like Clare's from my parents.
Here are the two girls testing out their new dress-up dresses. Yep. They work. They spin just fine.
We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our visitors a happy and holy Christmas. We have had a great time sharing our adventures with you all and appreciate all your comments and interest over the last few years.
Drive safely!

Midnight Mass starts the season

The children were very excited last night. We had been to morning Mass (for Sunday) and now we were in the waiting time until Midnight Mass. Lana and Rose had an afternoon nap, but the other childrn were too excited (or "too old") for that type of thing. Eventually, Clare, Peter and James had a two hour sleep (at their suggestion!!!) before we had to get up at 11:15pm.
The Mass was great with the priests from the Monastery in Gold vestments (as it is a great celebration) and Ariel and Eric joined the choir. I must say that the great thing about Christmas Carols is that you can sing them with any type of voice, just let fervour and volume make up for singing talent. At least, that's my theory.
We had mentioned to our neighbours we were going to midnight Mass. They thought about this when they returned home and called wishing to join us. No worries, we said and their first experience of a Catholic Mass was this one with all the bells and whistles! Do you remember first attending a Catholic Mass and wondering whether to stand, sit or kneel? Lana remembers my father giving her the tip that all the posture changes help us keep awake during long Masses. So Lana faithfully passed this tip on to our neighbours.
After Mass, Father mentioned that St Nicholas had dropped by on December 6 and left a number of sweet reminders for the children. This gave him an excuse to give a short history of St Nicholas.
Following the joy (and lollies) shared amongst the parishioners we drove home very carefully. After the rains there were lots of kangaroos and wombats on the roadsides munching on the green grass. Nothing can ruin your day like a collision with a kangaroo or wombat. It's a bit like hitting a deer, but kangaroos can be larger and wombats have been compared to mobile speed humps.

24 December 2006

A really Big Bear Hug

In the midst of our celebrations amidst the falling rain yesterday we received a phone call from the local Harvey Norman (Electrical Goods Outlet) in Goulburn. Goulburn is in the midst of extreme drought (as reported here) and they obviously shared our joy at the rain.
The lady asked when I would be in Goulburn next.
"Why?" I asked
"Because you've won the bear."
The huge white teddy bear that Clare and Rose are hugging was the prize in a competition for customers that purchased some product in the last few months.
So we popped in today after Mass and received another Christmas present.
The father of our neighbouring homeschooling family made an excellent point when he saw it.
"Pity it's white, isn't it?"
As any parent knows white is a colour designed for those without children. :-)

Clare's future plans

Clare (5) was sitting with Grandma and Lana discussing the news of day.
"I can't wait to get married." she said.
"Don't be in a hurry for that." Grandma replied.
"I want you all to be there."
"I'll be there if I can. You don't need to hurry."
"Rose can be the flower girl."
"By the time you're old enough to be married," Lana joined in, "Ariel or Eric may have a little girl the right age. Rose will be a bit older by then."
Clare pondered this and added, "I think I'll have a flower man too."
"Flower men are usually called page boys."
Clare stopped talking for a while and pondered all this new information. Suddenly she popped up and said, "I think I'll get married after breakfast."
Grandma responded holding back a big smile, "Oh yes. You don't want to get married on an empty stomach."

23 December 2006

What is your plan for the children?

What are your plans for your children?
Or, to ask a related question, what is your plan as parents?
(This post by the Game Theorist led to this article by Orson Scott Card.)
Both articles are an excellent start to a conversation all parents should ask themselves.
How do you measure success as a parent?
We reckon that if the children end up as happy, productive members of society and on their way to heaven (that is, knowing, loving and serving God) we would have done our jobs reasonably well.
As Orson Scott Card discusses, aiming to be the best or just happy are dangerous aims as their attainment or the drive towards their attainment do not necessarily provide us with what we sought underneath the simple answers.
(The photo is a cute one of Clare I thought would make for a nice illustration.)

An early Christmas Present - Puddles!

Today we received a great early Christmas present. Rain!
"Woohoo!" we yelled and sent the children outside to play.
Puddles quickly grew and after a brief lull rain poured again and all of our water tanks overflowed.
"Yee-haw!" Full tanks for Christmas.
In this photo Clare is having fun jumping in one of the puddles whilst the other four are enjoying wet trampolines. It's great fun jumping onto the wet canvas with water bouncing up at the same time. (Click on the photo for a more detailed photo.) I was able to catch James and Peter just at the bottom of their jump and Ariel falling.

Australian Christmas in the community

Phew! Now I can sit down and post about the way Australia handles Christmas and the so-called "War on Christmas" that seems to be an annual event in the US.

There is no war on Christmas in Australia.

No-one threatens to sue anybody over a Christmas display or demand equal time for their real or imagined celebrations. When an over zealous public official or council tries to make Christmas bland or totally "Politically Correct", they are soon shouted down or encouraged to grow up.
Almost every store has decorations for Christmas including trees, tinsel, various Santa Clauses, nativity scenes and banners. Local councils have street based decorations to encourage the joy of the season. In the top photo taken in George Street, Sydney (the most central street) you can see the Sydney City Council's red and green banners proclaiming "Merry Christmas" and "Peace and Goodwill".
The lower photo was taken in one of the malls I traverse from the hotel to my city based client. They have installed all these Christmas balls and the ceiling lights continually change colour. There is tinsel in the walkways and stores and a number of very nicely done nativity scenes in shop windows.
Almost everyone you meet will leave you the passing "Merry Christmas". Even Buddhists and Muslims wish you a Merry Christmas and those that don't follow any Christian faith still plan to participate in the joy of Christmas and get together with their families. We have both Christmas day and St Stephen's day ("Boxing Day" - Dec 26th) as public holidays.
As Australians don't celebrate "Thanksgiving" as a separate holiday, Christmas is the time of gathering as a family and giving thanks for the year that is almost past. As it is the middle of Summer, everyone is in fine holiday spirit, eating plenty of food, playing backyard cricket and other enjoyable activities with the family.
We give thanks that Australians are generally very tolerant of other's beliefs and there is no offense taken because one group of people is having a holiday. After all, why should I get offended or upset because Jews celebrate Hannukah at a time we don't have a celebration, or someone is enjoying a fine roast lamb on Good Friday when Catholics abstain from meat?

18 December 2006

Dad at play

As I am very busy at the moment and spend many nights away during the week, I try to spend as much time as possible on the weekend with the family. This takes the form of a number of activities such as shopping with a random assortment of the children, going to Mass and then perhaps visiting a park with the whole family or just mucking around at home. The children were excited when I tested the new trampoline on the weekend and Peter decided to take some photos of me jumping with Rose.
We also often have family discussions over breakfast or dinner on such diverse topics as the faith, life, the universe and everything, how families live together, what name we will give to the new baby and so on. Over Sunday morning breakfast we discussed the nature of reality and the material and spiritual dimensions. (see next post for details)
It is all of these times that make family life very enjoyable. The children and Lana aren't just "my family", they are also my friends.

12 December 2006

Where do used Shipping Containers go?

Have you ever wondered what happens to all those shipping containers that arrive here and other places around the world filled with cheap goods from China?
I hadn't but it is worth considering.
If our trade balance is not equal with China - that is, we send them as much as they send us - then what happens to the empty containers? No one is going to send an empty container back to the factories in China.

Read this fascinating post at "Honest" Things to learn more.

Update: Just take note that his previous post reveals himself as a conspiracy leaning fellow and so the idea regarding the shipping containers should be taken as an idea - not as a fact.
The comments on the Vox Popoli post add a number of alternative reasons for the imbalance.

Hat Tip: Vox Popoli

Advent-ures before Christmas

Now that we are in Advent (the 4 weeks preparing for Christmas) we have created our Advent Wreath.
The Advent Wreath is supposed to have at least a candle for each of the four Sundays within Advent circled by some evergreen branches. Three candles are Purple and one Pink. You can also have an optional White/gold one in the middle for Christmas day itself.
On the first Sunday, a Purple candle is lit. The second has two purple candles lit. The pink one joins the other two in week three and then all four are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas.
We have the Advent Wreath in the middle of the dinner table and when we gather for the evening meal, each child has a turn lighting the appropriate candles. Then another child gets to blow them out at the end of the meal so that everyone gets a chance to light or unlight the candles. (Clare is enjoying her hard won privilege in this photo)
Ariel made the wreath using candles, some branches from some bordering Pine trees and ribbons of the appropriate colours around the candles.
In case you were wondering, the candles were set up straight but things move, donchaknow?

11 December 2006

Water Recycling

The key to careful water usage is using it more than once. This can mean using the washing machine rinse water for the plants or catching dripping showers and taps/faucets in a bucket or two.
With Dad's help we have mastered another method.
1. The younger children get dirty.
2. They take turns using the bath, washing the floor at the same time.
3. The extremely dirty water gets transported via buckets to give our plants a drink.
As you can see Rose helps in all three steps!

10 December 2006

You know you're a homeschooler when...

I found this at Mary Ann Bernard's blog who found it at Eclectic Homeschooler who got it from someone else. Now you've seen it too.
I have Australianised some of the points and added a couple at the bottom. The bold ones certainly apply to us.
1. You went to school in your Pajamas.
2. Your biology lab consisted of assisting in your sibling’s birth.
3. Your stacks of books to check out was taller than the librarian.
4. Your PE came from chasing little toddlers around.
5. Your school bus was a 9 passenger van (12 actually).
6. You considered school work after lunch to be cruel and unusual punishment.
7. Your father told the check-out lady at Wal-Mart/any shop, “We’re on a field trip.”
8. Your social life was viewed by some to be one rung lower than that of a Benedictine monk.
9. Your teacher wrote your report card on a napkin. (We don't do report cards)
10. You had to move dirty laundry/breakfast dishes off the table before you could start school.
11. The signatures on your diploma all end with the same last name.
12. Everyone else in the world was referred to as “Schoolies.”
13. Your Mother’s wardrobe consisted primarily of denim pinafores/skirts (US:jumpers).
14. The word ‘homework’ sounded like a foreign language.
15. Your yearbook was also your babybook.
16. A snow day meant that you had to shovel the driveway after you finished your school work. Snow! That WOULD be a holiday!
17. You enjoyed the pastime of watching public school kids walk home from school.
18. You had to look at the clock to see if you could call your public school friends yet.
19. You thought that “public-school-kid” was an insult of the highest degree.
20. Health class consisted of eating breakfast.
21. You had to decide what year you wanted to graduate.
22. You were always late but just called it “homeschooler time.” (Late? It depends on how you define, "Late".)
23. You can remember nearly every single day you went to public school.
24. The teacher could kiss the principal, and no one thought it was unusual.
25. You got to school and the teacher asked you if you’ve done all your chores/jobs.
26. Your friends talked about waiting in line for seven hours to try out the new roller coaster in town, so you went and waited five minutes on a school day. (We go to the pool on school days - no queues.)
27. Your school lunches didn't come out of a lunch box or bag. They came from the fridge, microwave or cupboard.
28. You’ve listened to Beethoven, ABBA, Cliff Richard, Il Divo and Rolf Harris on the same day. (And Weird Al Yankovic too) Not counting music lessons.
29. Gym class was actually a fun activity like swimming.
30. You’re on a first-name basis with the clerks at the local library. (Actually they recognise you on the street away from the library.)
31. The closest thing to a bully in your school was your slightly strange two-year-old sister. Rose CAN be so pushy.
32. Your friends complained about a hard day at school, and you had to keep yourself from giving them “that homeschooling smile.”
33. You heard the phrase “socialization” and laughed because you had more friends and knew more people than your public school friends.
34. You were firmly convinced that high school causes brain damage
35. You slept in till 9 am on weekdays but got up at 7 am on Sundays
36. You have more siblings than sweaters and jumpers
37. You knew what a ‘Park Day’ is
38. Your favorite author was Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterton, or P.G. Wodehouse
39. You have suffered through Saxon Math
40. All birthdays were school holidays
41. You have finished your schoolwork before breakfast (Only if breakfast is delayed!)
42. You taunted high schooled friends during finals week
43. You spent more than 2 hours each day reading and writing….voluntarily
44. You are 16 years of age or older and still have never been on a date
45. You knew what “Unit Studies” were
46. You had more than 2 science experiments going on in your room
47. You knew more than 1 Latin paradigm
48. You have spent the entire school day in pajamas
49. You regularly utilized words such as “malingering”, “tedious”, and “indubitably”
50. You considered trampoline jumping phys ed
51. Your home library is divided into several sections and bookshelves, probably a separate room.
52. You checked out more than 10 books each time you visited the library
53. You have attempted to teach yourself physics
54. When asked about what year you are in, you quickly make up a number to match your age.
55. You had no idea as to what rock bands were popular then…but you could recite all of the stages of cellular mitosis (in order).
56. You actually wanted to receive books on your birthday
57. Cleaning your room counted as Phys-Ed.
58. Your field trip took you overseas - for over 2 years!
59. Shop class included watching your grandfather rebuild his motor home and make swords.
60. Your track meet was riding into town to race bikes with a friend.
61. Your mum wished you’d stop reading and do something else for a change.
62. Your bedroom was your classroom and your bed or floor was the desk.
63. You stayed up till whenever, and not because you were doing homework.
64. You could get days ahead in almost any subject.
65. You recorded, planned and graded your own school work.
66. You forgot about the minor holidays until you saw your dad sitting home on a week day or your public school friends asked you over the weekend what you did on your day off.
67. You didn’t know what spring break was.
68. Your mom counted watching a war movie as history and playing out in the sandpit as PE.
69. You had more friends way older and way younger than you than ones your actual age.
70. You read for fun.
71. Dad takes you to work and doesn't need permission slips.
72. Your best friends tend to have the same last name.
73. Sleeeping in a room on your own is a punishment.
74. You plan vacations around school break - not during the break but after or before.
75. Your parent teacher meeting is held in bed just before you drop off to sleep.
76. Nature study is taking a walk with your Grandfather in the garden. (as in the photo above)

I've got a lovely bunch of Bananas

Bananas! They are almost a reasonable price at last. We gave the family a special treat yesterday by purchasing a bunch of 9 bananas for $10 ($7.50 US) This is a third of the price they got to at their peak and there were lots of "Mmmms" around as we savoured our first bananas in about nine months since Cyclone Larry devastated Australia's Banana crop back in March.
In a few week's time the prices should be back to normal and we can look at buying them by the box again.
Hmmm. Bananas.

Bouncing without springs

Last time when I was returning home late, I stopped at McDonalds and purchased a quality meal. I noticed a competition being held with the prize of a "Springfree trampoline".
"No springs?" I asked myself and examined the poster. I had no intention of buying any Happy Meals, but I did see a website address in Australia. (www.springfreetrampoline.com.au) (the US site is www.springfreetrampolines.com) Considering Peters proclivity for jumping a lot, we investigated the website and were very happy with the safety features and design smarts.
When we were in the US we had a trampoline with a net and wanted to get one here. This trampoline is even better with no springs, no pads, and a much better net design.
It also bounces higher and firmer. (Note how high Eric is. Ariel gets even higher.) In the top picture you can see that Peter has already checked out some of the capabilities.
The trampoline came in three heavy boxes 8am on Saturday morning (when I normally get to sleep-in). I awoke groggy and signed for the boxes whilst Dad moved them to where we were to set up the trampoline. We then proceeded to assemble the thing. The process was pretty straight forward and the instructions were very detailed. There were no missing bits and a couple of useful spares were included. Fitting the rods into the mat was quite strenuous. Normally I awake at around 5:30 or 6:00am, have a shower, drive around two hours and then start work. Waking up and going straight into strenous activity made me realise how unfit I really am!
But the end result is pretty good and both trampolines are getting use. So now we have six Bruggies bouncing beautifully.
Update: Oops. The Australian link was wrong. Now fixed.

4 December 2006

I forgot the fudge recipe

ALmost a year ago we posted our recipe for Unforgettable Fudge. This weekend Ariel made a batch (with some help from Lana) and I brought along a sample to the client Ariel has been assisting the last few weeks.
Amidst the expressions of delight I was asked about the recipe.
"It's on Bruggietales," I replied and then found that I had forgotten to include it in our recipe list! Oops.
So, the "Unforgettable Fudge" was forgotten. But it is now remembered and placed in Lana's Recipes on the left.

2 December 2006

Kids behaving NOT badly

During the short time we were waiting at the Radiologist Office for our Ultrasound, the children filled half the waiting area and explored the treasure trove of new books to read. If an adult came in looking for a chair, one of the children arose from their chair and took a seat on the floor. I caught this photo of Ariel and the girls sharing some of the books. Eric had been sitting next to Clare, and when the lady in the white shirt came in, he stood up (unbidden) and offered her his chair.
When our time was announced I quietly called to them all to come along and we proceeded to the tiny room for the ultrasound. Other than encoraging Peter to settle down during the boring time the radiologist was ignoring us doing his measurements, the children did pretty well.
When we returned after an hour or so to pick up the results and accompanying report, we waited in the van while Lana went in. Lana took quite some time. When Lana returned about 20 minutes later we found out why.
The ladies at the front desk asked Lana, "How did you get the kids to behave so well? I've got two and they wouldn't have done that."
"It's a lot of work, and we homeschool." Lana replied.
"I thought you did," said the younger lady, "When I saw how they were behaving I thought you must homeschool."
Then Lana engaged in a conversation discussing the socialisation and family benefits of homeschooling. The older lady mentioned she knew another family with ten children that homeschooled. (They are a local family that is also part of our local homeschooling group.)
We earlier had a conversation in the waiting room with a lady and her daughter who was about to go into year 12. "I wish I homeschooled," sighed the girl.
It's days like this we don't mind going out with the whole clan!

29 November 2006

Peter is in a flip

Peter is unbelievable.
He is able to do all sorts of physical contortions and rarely walks anywhere in a traditional manner. Think of how the Droidekas (?sp) (those rolling droids from Star Wars) move. Then you should be able to envisage how Peter rolls down the hall from the lounge to his bedroom - literally head over heels!
This photo is of his latest fun. He does a few preliminary bounces and then flips backwards and lands back on his feet! And then easily does it again.
I would like to claim he gets this ability from me, but no-one would remotely believe it.
We have begun investigating local gymnastics training as I think he really needs it.

28 November 2006

The Benefits of Grandparents II

This week my parents are visiting us and the children are very excited. My parents live in Melbourne, around 800km (500 miles) away and visit us about twice a year.
Mum (also known as "Just Grandma") made the little girls some dresses. In this photo you can see them "road testing" the dresses, taking them for a spin. Whenever the girls put on a dress, they have to make sure the dress works properly.
Dad and Mum stay at a hotel in a neighbouring town and catch the bus to visit us. Part of the tradition is to visit the local general store and purchase an icecream or some lollies for each of the children. After the children have had books read to them, watched a film together, shown all their latest creations and artwork and walked to the park and General Store, Dad and Mum go back to their hotel for a rest, ready for the next day!

27 November 2006

The Australian Baby Journey 4

Initial Blood Tests
We next had to visit the pathology department of the Hospital. It is the regional Public Hospital with what one would assume the typical bureaucracy.
We asked at the main reception to whom we should report and were directed to Pathology. We found the Pathology reception and handed over our referral and Medicare number. No forms. One admin staff.
Whilst we waited, Lana went into the appropriate room and provided her blood and a sample gathered after the ultrasound.
We were done, and whatever cost is covered by medicare. No paperwork at all and no direct cost to us.
The US experience
We navigated through several layers of admin personnel and had the tests administered. The cost was $269 or $215 after insurance ($287 AUD).

The Australian Baby Journey 3

The Ultrasound
Later this afternoon, we arrived at the radiology clinic to have our first ultrasound. We answered some questions which were entered directly into their system and were asked to wait. No forms.
We went in about 10 minutes after the appointment time. This is just as well as ultrasounds are taken when the mother's bladder is full. Very full. I was to avoid bumps and sharp turns driving to the appointment!
All the children were with us, crammed into the corners of the small room. The radiologist occasionally explained what he saw and the children behaved pretty well.
After we had all the required measurements, we checked in at the front desk, paid $107 ($80US) of which we will get back around half. Net cost $60 ($45 US).
We reported back an hour later to pick up the results.
The US experience.
Our first ultrasound was part of the emergency room (see here). The second one was in the same area and by the same guy. The hospital charged us $400 US and the radiologist charged us $108. After insurance, the cost was $245 ($327 AUD)
There were bucketloads of forms and several layers of hospital staff to negotiate. We weren't allowed to see the results. They were sent directly to the doctor.

The Australian Baby Journey 2

The First Doctor's visit
We try to arrange an appointment with the doctor at around 20 weeks. This means it is "too late" for most of the tests we don't want anyway.
Also, we use a GP (General Practitioner) as they don't do abortions. It takes a highly educated obstetrician to murder children.
Lana made the phone call and they recorded the information then. We arrived early for our appointment, but did not have to fill in any forms. They just asked us a couple of extra questions which were recorded directly onto their system. The doctor is part of a medical centre, but officially only uses one admin staff.
The doctor was only 10 minutes late and he called us into his consulting room. He was with us for the whole half hour and entered notes as we talked, entered the referral for the ultrasound and blood tests into his PC and printed the appropriate forms pre-filled with our information. (No translating doctor's writing!)
We then made an appointment for a fortnight (two weeks) later.
The cost? Nothing. Bulk Billed. Officially $97.00 ($73 US). Regular visits will be $47, with a refund of $34, Net $13 ($10 US).
No forms or paperwork.

The US cost? Every visit cost $75 US ($100 AUD) or $25 ($33 AUD) after insurance refund. Forms spanning several pages had to be completed, about a dozen various staff between us and the doctor, every appointment between 30 and 60 minutes late, the doctor spending at most 5 minutes in the room with us.

The Australian Baby Journey 1

This medical journey is a good comparison with Rose's in 2004 as - like the US - we are going to a new doctor and new hospital. At the end of each post I will give a cumulative comparative cost. (That's what you get from an Accountant)

In Australia everyone is covered under Medicare which is paid by a 1.5% tax on incomes. Those on low incomes have this reduced to zero and those on higher incomes will have an additional 1% surcharge if they don't have private hospital cover. Additional funds are provided from the general tax pool.
The Australian Medical system is a Private/Public hybrid. Medical services are private, contracted to the public system where required. Any eligible payments are made to the medical provider and a refund for the official amount is received from the Medicare offices. (Like private health insurance). The Medical provider can also opt to "Bulk Bill" which means providing the service at the standard fee with no additional charge.

The US system (for the bulk of the citizens) is based on a private health system. The facilities provided - that we experienced - matched what we receive here.

In the US, health insurance for a family of 8 was around $1,400 US ($1,867 AUD) per month. I treated Health Insurance as a Tax when I compared Australian and US tax systems. It worked out around even.

The boys win! (4 to 3)

Today we visited the doctor and also the Ultrasound on our first step in the baby delivery process.
I will be making this into a bit of a series, comparing this journey with our American experience. That will be the next post.
The good news:
The baby is a boy and doing very well. All essential equipment is in place, heartbeat strong and obviously he is very happy where he is at the moment.
There is only one baby in there (phew!). Some of the children were hoping for twins to keep the boy-girl ratio the same.
Our next mission is to decide on his name. This is a family sport with specific rules:
1. The name should be short as our last name is long enough.
2. The first letter can't be the same as any other in the family, or our last name. So A, B, C, D, E, J, L, P & R are taken.
3. The letters mustn't end up with a stupid acronym.
4. The name isn't the same as any in our immediate family.
If it meets these conditions, and passes the parental veto, it is stuck on the fridge and we try it out.

25 November 2006

Rose is too cute

When I was getting the camera to take a photo of our Turkey remains, Rose rushed in saying, "Me. Me." This is her photo.
When she wants to get anyone's attention, she calls her version of their name (Babbits = James, Eggic = Eric, Awial = Ariel, Tare = Clare, Mam-ma = Grandma, Owwpa = Opa) followed by "Yoo hoo!".
This morning we found her in our bed between us. To get out she shimmied down to the base of the bed under the blankets and escaped through a gap she made at the end. So much for a beautifully made bed.
When she over-reacts to a denial of one of her requests (see here) Lana often tells her to "Get over it."
"No over it" she responds.
Or when we laugh at her she stamps her foot and says, "Not funny". (which of course is funnier still).
She is also a quick learner. "Did you do this?" Grandma asks. "Clare did it." is the instant response, regardless of the facts.
This is just another example of "The Eleventh Reason".

An Australian Thanksgiving

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving. Australians don't celebrate Thanksgiving. We never did have to worry about freezing and starving over winter, and there was no religious reason in the starting of the country. We began as a Penal colony. Free Settlers only began arriving after the colony had a chance to survive and convicts who had completed their terms decided to stay (they couldn't get back very easily).
We enjoyed the idea of giving thanks for the blessings God has bestowed upon us and have begun our own tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving the Saturday after the third Thursday in November. We experienced Thanksgiving in the US here and here. We would celebrate too - but with an Australian Flavour.
Lana's parents and a good family friend joined us for this new custom.
Today was 35C (95F) - not your typical Winter's day. Bushfires are raging in various places around the country. But we still had Turkey. A 6.6kg (14.5lb) Turkey cost $46 Aust ($34.5 US) which is a lot more than US prices. To this we added Potato Bake (layered sliced potatoes, with onion and cream with a cheese top, baked in the oven), beetroot, pineapple, tomato, cucumber, rice salad, cabbage salad and Lana's Belgian Mayonnaise.
Once the main meal was over (with enough for traditional leftovers as you can see in the photo), dessert was Pavlova, cheesecake, Pumpkin Roll and icecream. We then enjoyed a movie during the hottest part of the afternoon and once it cooled down the children played outside licking icypoles (popsicles).
All in all I think this was a successful inaugural Australian Thanksgiving.

Black Friday

On this Friday I remembered with fondness the unique American experience of "Black Friday". Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving where most retail businesses traditionally go into "the black" - that is, make a profit. Traditionally this is the day of lots of amazing deals. If you are not fond of shopping, this is the one day you stay off the roads and at home.
As part of our last US Thanksgiving I joined one of my friends to experience this phenomenon at the local Walmart.
After several hours of travel, standing in line, and browsing, I came home with a $15.00 Food dehydrator. Although it was a good deal, I was strangely relieved not to have gone through the whole Black Friday experience and return home with nothing!

I wish that I had duck feet

Ariel has been pretty busy working with me in the city and we stay at a hotel near the client's offices. Ariel is doing pretty well on what is effectively her first job in an office environment.
Thursday night is late night shopping in Sydney so we went for a stroll and were "seduced" into a number of bookstores.
Whilst Ariel purchased a number of books she wanted with her new found income (after her 1/3 savings), I purchased a couple of books for the children at home.
Later when we had returned to our room Ariel asked for her books. I gave her "I wish that I had Duck Feet", a classic tale the children enjoyed so much that our existing copy was missing over half the pages.
"Thanks, Daddy," Ariel replied, and promptly began reading the book very enthusiastically.

Click go the shears

Part of our shopping trip most Saturdays involves a visit to the Goulburn Library. The library is attached to an Art Centre which has this fascinating piece of art on the outside wall.
It gives a very clever 3D effect to a 2D collection of metal and wire. It is reminiscent of the famous Shearing at Newstead painting by Tom Roberts.
This art is flat on the walll, not more than 15cm/6 inches off from th bricks.

23 November 2006

New Passport Photo

We have just discovered Photobooth software on our Mac. Other than the practical use taking set shots there are a set of filters to "enhance" the photos being taken.
The children reckon this would make a good photo for my passport when it next needs to be renewed.
Perhaps not.

22 November 2006

Violin Assignments

Last weekend I was able to use iDVD and iMovie and our new Video Camera. These two young people needed to prepare a DVD of a live recital for their music course. The assignment was worth 50% of the course's results!
I always like playing around with new technology and I was surprised how easy it was. We gathered together lots of lights to help with the video-ing (is that a word?) and captured great footage of the three set pieces they had to complete.
"That's all fine," I said, "How about doing something you enjoy without the music sheets?"
They looked at me and each other.
"What about this?" she asked.
"I don't know it, but I can follow along." he replied.
They did really well and the "DVD Bonus Feature" was really enjoyable.
It was amazing how simple it was to use iMovie and iDVD (Apple software that comes standard with all Macs). I tested the DVD on our Macs, Windows PCs and the DVD player.
"Great!" we thought and burned two copies and gave it to our young stars.
They first tried it on their Dell PCs and they didn't work! But they did work on the DVD player, so it seemed to just be their Dells. Phew!

15 November 2006

Carnival of Childrens' Comedy

Life in a Shoe is hosting the latest Carnival of Childrens' Comedy, including Ariel's tale of sleep moving.
I really enjoyed the post just below the carnival too. Check out the size of this spider!

14 November 2006

Racing around the village

Last weekend the local villages were all pretty busy with over 1200 bicycle riders participating in "The Vaude Highland Fling". The local volunteer fire brigades were hired to provide marshalling services, assisting riders whenever they came to intersections and needed to be pointed in the right direction.
Our first photo is of one of the local fire brigade's finest. He was stationed at an intersection of a dirt track ending the non timed portion of the section going through the village. Once they rode over the timing mats, they could begin racing. In an effort to stimulate their continuing excellence, he pointed the riders in the correct direction and informed them, "Now bugger off! That way! Hurry up!"
Ahh, the eloquence of Australians.
Meanwhile, Lana's Mum and Eric were staioned at another corner, ready and waiting to point the riders in the right direction.
In case you were wondering, this is a staged shot. They really did point the riders correctly when they approached.
Note Eric's new outfit. Lana went to work with the sewing machine on Saturday to shorten the sleeves and pants to fit. I'm sure he'll grow into them.

13 November 2006

Central Station by night

While I am working so much in the city I am staying at a hotel many weeknights. It is quite different from home.
It is generally noisier and certainly much lighter. If you leave home after dark at home you mustn't forget the torch (American:flashlight). Lana's Dad once forgot when he went to a firebrigade meeting. It was light when he left, but was dark by the time he returned. He slowly travelled with his arms outstretched before him and stepped very, very carefuly.
Mind you, there are some very interesting views. This was what I saw out my Window last week - Central Station Sydney by Night.

12 November 2006

The sleeper awakes

Ariel often has vivid dreams which occasionally spill over into reality through sleep talking and even sleep walking.
Today Ariel related one of her nights a few months ago as she related it to a visitor who would be sleeping in her room. This photo is just to give you an idea of the bed situation in the girls' room. Ariel sleeps in the upper bed and Rose is in the lower one.
Ariel dreamed that she needed to get her bed into the spare room. (There is no need to understand why as this is all in a dream remember?) Eric wouldn't respond to her requests for help so, in a huff, she had to get down and do it herself. But the bed was too heavy to move far so she gave up, pushed it back, and went back to bed.
Next thing she woke up to a bang and cry as Rose fell out of bed. On the wall side!
"Oh no!" Ariel thought, "It wasn't just a dream". She quickly rushed to the ground, picked up Rose, placed her in bed and calmed her down and then moved the bed all the way back to the wall.
Her friend who was to sleep in the upper bunk remarked, "Don't have any bed moving dreams while I'm there OK?"

11 November 2006

9 November 2006

Young Firefighter

Now that Eric is twelve, he has joined the local volunteer fire brigade as a junior member.
Each Wednesday he joins Lana's dad and assists with the weekly training and preparations with the rest of the brigade. He has helped with setting up and organising equipment and got to ride in one of the fire trucks.
Last month when we attended the Firewise meetings Eric posed for this photo. Now he has received some second hand yellow overalls and special boots. Considering that the fire brigade members have to supply their own gear, receiving a uniform is a very handy start.
Being a junior member Eric will not be attending any actual fires. That will have to wait until he is sixteen. Until then he will learn all that needs to be learned and provide important assistance back at base (the fireshed).

7 November 2006

Lest we forget

On a cold and misty midday, we visited the local Cemetery.
I bet you didn't see that coming.
1 November is All Saints Day (the orignal reason for Hallowed Eve - Halloween) and 2 November is All Souls Day. On this day we are encouraged to especially remember the faithfully departed that are going through pre-heavenly cleansing - "as by fire" according to St Paul. So we visit a cemetery and pray a family rosary amongst the tombstones, remembering all those that have gone before us, asking God to have mercy on their souls.
This does is remind us all on the gift of life. We read tomb stones for people that died from only a day old to one lady who died at 100 years old. They died from as long ago as 1816 and as recent as last week. 1816 is amazing considering colonisation of Australia was only begun later than 1788!
This tombstone near the entrance is from 1919 for a lady that died at 32 years of age. The headstone erected over 85 years ago is now at an angle as time has shifted the supporting ground and the writing is weathered and worn. This is certainly a graphic reminder of the verses from Ecclesiastes - Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

6 November 2006

Frost and Rain

The last week or so we have been blessed with some cooler weather, and - joy o joy - good soaking rain. Our water tanks are filling again after a two month dry spell.
Unfortunately, the weather has been so cold that we had severe frosts.
When I drove past this vineyard less than ten days ago, the leaves were a bright green. I remember thinking how lovely it looked and it reminded me of Spring in Georgia.
This photo is from yesterday. The frost has destroyed almost the whole crop. A related article is here. The industry was worried about an over-supply and reduced prices about two weeks ago. Now they have the opposite concerns. Farming is such a difficult business.

2 November 2006

We are not amused

Queen Victoria is famous for the statement, "We are not amused." Currently I pass a statue of her located in the front of the Queen Victoria Building in the center of Sydney most weekdays. Today I finally captured the reason she isn't amused now.
Here you can see a pigeon using her head as a temporary roost. The Pigeon's calling card is on Queen Victoria's neck and she certainly does not look amused!

1 November 2006

Caramel Slice

Caramel Slice
This is a party favourite and is a speciality of Ariel's friend (known as TTTT). TTTT claims that you cannot be a member of her cooking club until you have burnt the base or caramel filling. Ariel will have to wait until next time to see if she qualifies, as this one went just right.

2 Cups Self Raising flour
1 Cup Pressed Brown Sugar
2 Cups Coconut
250g Melted/8 oz Butter

Place all ingredients in bowl and mix. Press into a lamington tray and bake for 10 minutes at 375 F (190 C).

2 Tins Condensed Milk
4 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
60 Grams/2 Oz Butter

Place in saucepan and cook until it bubbles then spread on slice. Cook for further 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Melt 250 grams/8 oz of chocolate then spread on caramel slice. Then put in fridge until solid.

This is a double recipe and makes plenty to share. All the broken and remainders after sharing go to Dad.

31 October 2006

The latest homeschooling carnival

Why Homeschool is hosting the latest Carnival of Homeschooling.
The revelation of our tradition for sharing lollies has certainly gained some attention.

30 October 2006

Opa's little helper

In addition to making swords for the boys, Dad has been bringing our gardens back into order after their Winter Exodus, preparing for the growing season.
Although some consider this type of job a solitary occupation, Rose and Clare help out the way they like the best. Here you can see how Rose is helping. Normally the girls are on each wheel guard of the full trailer, "assisting" Dad push the trailer around from garden bed to garden bed.
(Opa is our children's name for Dad following Dutch tradition)

Family Life Carnival

There is a huge Carnival of Family Life being held over at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood.
Our post on The Benefit of Grandparents is included about two thirds of the way down. There is a lot of reading to get through...

28 October 2006

Family Maths

This week Peter (8) had a maths lesson about division and remainders. He had 25 lollies (candies) and had to evenly divide them between a number of people and work out the remainder.
The first question was concerning four people.
"How many lollies do each get and how many are left?" Lana asked
"They each get six and Dad gets one."
"Dad?" Lana asked.
"Yes." Peter replied seriously, "Dad always gets the leftover ones. [This is true - it is a very important family tradition I started]
"What about six people?"
"They get four and Dad gets one."
"How about nine people?"
"They each get two," and here Peter paused, then in shock said, "but Dad gets seven! That's not fair!"
It was okay when I only got one to their four or six, but when I ended up with more, then it "wasn't fair".

The benefit of Grandparents.

Lana's parents returned from their six month Winter Exodus about ten days ago. Without wasting much time, the boys handed Dad their construction requests.
James wanted a Machine Gun - no, wait - a Sumarai sword. "Me too," added Peter. "And me," prompted Eric.
"Well," replied Dad, ""Give me a pattern of what you want and we'll see."
Yesterday was the revealing of some fine craftsmanship. He used wood for the blade, a circle of wood cut for the hilt and a piece of PVC piping for the handle with a slot to strengthen and support the blade, all sturdily screwed and glued together. You will note from the photo that each sword is designed to be the right height for each lad, with the hilt at each lad's waist.
The boys very proudly lined up to display their new weapons.
Note how straight, shaped and smooth the sword has been made. Any imperfections in the wood have been patched and rectified. The boys are very happy their grandfather is home!
Meanwhile, Clare and Rose have recommenced their morning ritual of wandering from our house to theirs, knocking at the front door and being invited in for morning tea and biscuits (cookies).
Hooray for Grandparents, we all say!

27 October 2006

The Age of Reason

Suzanne of Blessed Among Men has a great post on being a Super Hero. I'll let you read the tale of the story of the five sons as her closing comments make the tale.
On a similar note, I remember seeing a T-shirt for Mums that said:
"I make milk. What's your super power?"

The box, the bus, the time machine

I was working at one of my clients and noticed they had unpacked a huge box for a new computer server. I wandered over and asked the IT fellow, "What are you doing with that box?"
"I'm just going to throw it out. Why?"
"It'll make a good bus." I replied, smiling.
So he helped me fold it and place it in my car, fitting, although blocking my rear vision mirror.
When I arrived home I announced to the children I had brought something for them. Their eyes lit up as they realised how big the box was.
Here are James, Peter and Clare with two friends all piled into the "bus". Since then, James has updated the bus into a time travel car, complete wiith computer, many seats and all the inner and outer working of a car. "It's got three pedals, a windscreen and mirrors!"
"What's the thing you step on in the car?" asked Peter.
"A spider?" I suggested.
"No," he continued, "the pedal to go faster." "Ah - the Accelerator."

26 October 2006

Australians are welcome back to the US

Phew! Australians travelling to the US can breathe a sigh of relief. The alleged ban on Vegemite has been declared "False" by Snopes.
Snopes.com is a very good source for determining the veracity of so many claims made by email. In this case I was tricked by the source of the story - an Australian National news service. When I get emails of various scares or worries I do a quick Google search for "email hoax " and then some unique word within the story or email.

Thanks for the heads-up Gina!

25 October 2006

Graeme Ross

By Lana
This design is called Bankside by an Australian designer Graeme Ross.
I started stitching this design whilst pregnant with Ariel and completed it while she sat beside me and I talked to her.
Wow! That was a long time ago.
This picture has moved with us and adorned the walls of many houses until we finally settled down here. We found that the collection of pictures I have created over the years quickly converted a rental house into a home.
We even brought a number with us to the US. The earliest items we unpacked were the pictures, which were promptly hung onto the walls, so we could say, "Now we are home."

24 October 2006

Famous Australian banned from the US

Woe! Woe! and double Woe!
Travelling to the US has become even harder.
This time it isn't the terrorists or increased security. It isn't the 14 hour flight plus 3 or more hours hanging around the airport or customs. It's not even the cost of travel and accomodation.

The US has banned Vegemite!
How can Australians travel for extended periods to the US without their tasty Vegemite on toast?
This will require much more careful planning and preparation to fast. Perhaps the best time to go will be during Lent so I can offer it up?

(Hat tip: CoreEcon)

Why are the children so funny?

Why Homeschool is hosting this week's Carnival of Children's Comedy. As always there is plenty of children's humour to go around - Eric's Clingon Assault is included.
That's why we always refer to children's humour as the Eleventh Reason.

23 October 2006

Wedding Present and Culture Exchange

by Lana
I read a few cross stitch forums and blogs and on one of them we have a small group. This group has a few exchanges during the year. One exchange just completed was a culture exchange.
We were to make a small item with a picture of a magnificent building or scene from our country.
Being a young country,
Australia was quite difficult. We don't really have many magnificent buildings and of the ones we have not many of them are charted in cross stich or were of the right size for the exchange. We had to be a little creative to work something out.
Here is a picture of what we sent to Germany. The bookmark was stitched by Ariel and I made the needleroll. You can also see what Selina thought of it on her blog.
Selina was recently married so I stitched the happy couple a little picture as a gift. I didn't have it ready in time for the wedding and sent it along with the exchange items as a little extra surprise.
The design also included a duckling which I left out to just have the two bears, I added a few more flowers in to replace the duck and framed it myself with some matt boards we had here. It worked out quite well.
The trickiest part was making sure it all fit into a strong enough box and be under the postal weight limit.

Another Gathering

As mentioned yesterday, we enjoyed an 18th Birthday Bushdance on Saturday.
The good thing about this type of affair is that all the family are part of the party. The older children get to dress up and dance with plenty of other youth of all ages. The younger ones play together in the neighbouring park or just enjoy their friends' company.
While the excellent dance caller was getting ready and testing his equipment, some of the girls tested the dance floor with specially designed spins, twirls and giggling. I actually caught the young lady in the red dress in mid air with a huge smile!
Once it was too dark to play outside almost all the children joined in the dancing. This photo is a sample of a couple of pairs of youngsters enjoying the dancing and prancing.
By 9:30pm it was announced: "Clean up time" and even though families with little children departed, there were plenty of hands to make light work of the night's final duties. At Mass the next day we spoke to a number of the older children that attended who had stayed locally overnight. They all participated in the choir which certainly surprised the priest. As he entered the church he expected a small and quiet congregation. The choir began to sing with additional musical accompaniment and Father's face just beamed with pleasure and surprise.

Update: The previous dance in July is reported here.